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Real Name:  J'onn J'onzz

Voiced by Carl Lumbly

It was over a thousand years ago, when the people of Mars (or Ma'aleca'andra, as it was known in their native tongue) enjoyed the pinnacle of their culture’s achievement, that J’onn J’onzz last knew peace.  Married and the father of two children, J’onn was known as a Manhunter—a peacekeeping officer that sought out those in his society that would try to bring about its downfall.  This contentment was not to last, however, as his planet was invaded by the forces of the Imperium, who sought first to conquer and then to feed off of the Martian's psychic energies.

Utilizing his Manhunter skills to help his people fight a guerrilla war against the Invaders, J’onn was still forced to watch as, over the centuries, they systematically destroyed his culture and slaughtered his people.  Finally, in a desperate last stand backed by other survivors, J’onn succeeded in stopping the Imperium’s forces by infiltrating their underground citadel and releasing a powerful nerve gas that trapped the Invaders in a state of suspended animation.  However, in the aftermath, J’onn discovered that his comrades had fallen in the ensuing battle, meaning that he was the last of his kind.

Tired of fighting and unwilling to kill anymore, J’onn pumped their fortress full of the gas and sealed the doors behind him.  Seeking some sort of purpose now that he was alone on a dead world, he vowed to keep watch over them, should they somehow get free.  Thus, J’onn maintained his post for five hundred years, until the day that astronauts from Earth unwittingly released the Invaders from their slumber and gave them an idea for their next target.  Coming to warn of the coming invasion, J’onn telepathically reached out and assembled six of Earth’s heroes into what the world would soon know as the Justice League and, following the defeat of the armada, decided to remain on Earth as one of its champions.

Fascinated by the complexity of the human race—and weary of being alone—J’onn walks amongst us, either in disguise or in the caped, amalgamated human / Martian form that he currently favors.  Though he still mourns the loss of his family and people, he also realizes that he now has a surrogate family in the form of the Justice League; and uses his inherent shape-shifting and telepathic abilities in their service.  The last of his people, the Manhunter from Mars is always ready to resume the role that he served long ago, on another world, should any try to threaten the safety of his new home.

Cartoon Network on J’onn J’onzz:  “J’onn J’onzz is the last survivor of an ancient Martian race.  He is a telepath who can use his uncanny shape-shifting abilities to adapt and blend into any situation.  By altering his physical density, he can also become immaterial and pass through solid objects.  Because he comes from a cold barren planet, exposure to intense heat can weaken him.

”J’onzz came to Earth to warn us of an invasion by the evil race that wiped out his own people on Mars.  Although he was met with suspicion and hostility, J’onzz refused to give up, and helped to gather together a group of heroes who could repel the Invaders.  This group would become the Justice League.  After the Invaders were defeated, J’onzz remained on Earth because, as the last of his kind, he no longer had a home.  The other members of the Justice League try to make him feel welcome, but he always remains aloof, detached, and inscrutable.

”As an outside observer, J’onzz is fascinated by contradictions of the human race.  When he secretly walks among us, he is overwhelmed by the conflict between intellect and emotion he senses within every one of us.  Often, it is too much for his alien mind to absorb, so he retreats to the orbiting Justice League Watchtower, where he spends most of his time.  Although he is the heart of the Justice League, no one in the universe is more alone than J’onn J’onzz (courtesy of Cartoon Network press materials).”

Grant Morrison on the Martian Manhunter (circa 1997):  “His alien-ness is so out front that people can’t overlook it.  He can make himself look human, but everyone knows that underneath [his human form], there’s someone from another planet who doesn’t look like us or behave like us, and is only pretending to be one of us.

“When I talk with other writers about the JLA, a lot of them tell me they don’t like the Martian Manhunter, and think that if there was going to be a story where someone betrays the JLA, then he’s the guy who would do it.  I see him much differently:  if someone was to betray the JLA, he’s the last person who would do it…he’s the keeper of the flame for everything the JLA represents.  He’s remote from the others, but at the same time, completely dedicated to what they represent, like honor, truth, and justice.  [In fact], there isn’t much time when he doesn’t do superhero work; he just goes back home and lounges on the sofa, waiting for the next emergency.

“He’s the last of his tribe, a noble warrior who has seen everything he loved taken from him, but he’s dealt with it.  Now, his life has meaning via the JLA, which, in a way, is the closest thing he has to a family.  He’s in with the League for the long haul (courtesy of Wizard Magazine).”

Excerpts from the Justice League Panel at the 2001 San Diego Comic Con:

Bruce Timm:  I’m going to have Rich [Fogel] explain Martian Manhunter, because J’onn J’onzz is an enigma wrapped up in a riddle…and I want Rich to explain him.

Rich Fogel:  He’s one of the motivating forces for getting the Justice League together in the first place.  And he is a character who carries a lot of pain inside [of] him because he is the last of his race, yet he’s been invited to sort of adopt Earth as a new home.  So he’s somebody who has a great compassion for living beings, yet is very much alone in the universe.  He’s really cool.

Bruce Timm:  The tricky part about J’onn was trying to limit his powers because, in the entire history of DC Comics, he’s had every power imaginable…we said, “Okay, which ones do we want to give him?”  And the thing is [that], at times, he’s been presented as being like at Superman-level strength, [plus] he’s telepathic, and he does all this different stuff.

So, basically the powers that we settled on:  he does have telepathic abilities and he is still a shape-shifter, but we’re trying not to overdo that because it’s like [in a mock Wonder Twins voice] “Size of an elephant!”  And he passes through things—he can alter his density, so he can move through walls and stuff.  And he’s strong, but he’s not quite as strong as Superman.  He’s not nearly in that class.  And he does fly.  Um…

Rich Fogel:  No Martian vision.

Bruce Timm:  Martian vision…what’s Martian vision?  Oh, heat vision.  That one never made sense because he’s afraid of fire.  So, he has no heat vision…we never really call him [the Martian Manhunter either].  We just call him J’onn…

Courtesy of Revolution Science Fiction and Comics2Film.

Paul Storrie on J’onn J’onzz:  “One of the things that makes J’onn so appealing to write—indeed, one of the reasons, I'm sure, that John Ostrander wanted to do his regular DCU book—is that he hasn’t been explored and interpreted to the same degree as most of his DC contemporaries.  The fine folks working on the Justice League show have come up with an intriguing take on the character that makes for great storytelling opportunities (courtesy of Toon Zone).”

nothing on J’onn’s weakness to fire:  “I don’t think the creators are playing up J’onn’s fear of fire.  The sight of it doesn’t terrorize him, but I think fire can do him damage if he doesn’t see it coming.  If he does see it, he can go [intangible] and the flames will not harm him (courtesy of Toon Zone).”

Bruce Timm on J’onn J’onzz #1:  “Martian Manhunter is a character that, y’know, it’s all in how you draw it.  I mean, I actually think the design looks fine; I think he looks great.  He’s had various [...] collar shapes on top of his cape; he’s pretty much like the comic book character, just adapted slightly for animation (courtesy of Justice League:  Justice on Trial DVD).”

Bruce Timm on J’onn J’onzz #2:  “He’s an alien, but not cool and logical.  J’onn’s not a Mr. Spock-type at all.  He’s soft-spoken and doesn’t seem very emotional, but J’onn has a big heart.  You’ll see in later episodes that he’s a really nice guy.  Even though he’s an alien, he’s the most human of them all.  It’s an interesting interpretation (courtesy of Starlog Magazine).”

Rich Fogel on J’onn J’onzz (circa 2003):  “After his experience [in ‘Tabula Rasa’] you’ll understand why he prefers to spend so much time alone up on the Watchtower.  One of our main goals for these new episodes was to deepen our understanding of our heroes and further develop the relationships that were set up in the first season (courtesy of [website name removed]).”

Dwayne McDuffe on J’onn’s mental powers:  “J’onn doesn’t read minds without permission, or a very good reason.  Anyway, there’s one member whose mind he can’t read (courtesy of DwayneMcDuffie.com).”

 

Images

J'onn J'onzz Model Design Sheet #1 | J'onn J'onzz Model Design Sheet #2

J'onn J'onzz Image #1 (JL Design) | J'onn J'onzz Image #3 | J'onn J'onzz Image #3

J'onn J'onzz Image #4 | J'onn J'onzz Image #5 | J'onn J'onzz Image #6

 

Commentary  

"I was just thinking:  you, me, Wonder Woman, Superman—we are all of us orphans and exiles."

"Maybe we should call ourselves the Just-Us League."

An exchange between J'onn J'onzz and Hawkgirl from "Twilight"

Often credited as the superhero whose debut ignited the Silver Age of comics—first appearing in Detective Comics #225 (November 1955)—the Martian Manhunter has seldom received the credit he rightfully deserves.  Usually pigeon-holed as “the green Superman-wannabe,” he received regular appearances in Justice League of America and a semi-steady chain of appearances in anthology books (such as the aforementioned Detective Comics and House of Mystery), mini-series, and one-shots throughout most of his career (his recent ongoing series, which owes its existence to the popularity of Grant Morrison’s JLA, was cancelled after thirty-six issues).  Also, he was excluded from the Superfriends animated shows, which—while potentially saving him from becoming an Aquaman-like laughingstock—certainly didn’t help his recognition among non-comic fans.  However, in terms of assembling a Justice League series that paid proper homage to its comic book influences, it would have been negligent to not include J’onn J’onzz, who has been a standing member in each incarnation of the team since the very beginning.

In adapting J’onn for the series, the creative team thankfully simplified his convoluted origin to fit into the template of the animated universe.  With an origin story that has been retold, revised, and contradicted multiple times—the earliest version including time travel and teleportation; the most recent version including a telepathic plague and memory wipes—the creative team apparently chose to create a new one loosely adapted from a recent JLA story.  Here, the Alien Invaders—apparently based on the Pale Martians, a villainous offshoot of J’onn’s people—decimated the Martian population over a period of five hundred years, with J’onn spending five hundred more maintaining a vigil over them while they were in suspended animation (obviously to age the character, which is a nod one of J’onn’s origins, where he was teleported to Earth from the distant Martian past).  Also, by creating a new origin and background for the character, the creative team was able to discard much of the elaborate and complicated back-story (which spanned decades stemming back to the 1950s) and firmly establish J’onn in the present day as a new hero.

While rewriting J’onn’s origins, the creative team also took the liberty of defining a set list of the Manhunter’s powers for use in the series.  Since his debut in 1955, the Martian Manhunter has had numerous abilities—with each writer adding new ones to the existing list—which eventually compiled into a character that was ridiculously powerful (some of the additional powers being Superman-level strength, telekinesis, Martian vision, and the Mayavana [also known as the Great Gift, an ability that could only be used once to mentally grant another their heart’s desire]); and, even in the character’s modern incarnation, he was often portrayed as having abilities virtually identical to Superman’s.  To correct this, J’onn’s Martian vision was removed and his super-strength was downplayed but, in exchange, his powers of telepathy, shape-shifting, flight, and density variation are now prominently featured; giving him a more interesting range of abilities that are unique from those of his teammates.  As it currently stands, there is little chance for J’onn to be mistaken for Superman now.

(It should be noted that, while this version of J’onn can hardly be called a copy of Superman, his central abilities and appearance invite comparisons to characters from other team books.  For example, as the team’s resident telepath, the Martian could be seen as a Jean Grey-like character [from Marvel Comic’s X-Men titles]; and, as a cloaked individual that possesses density-altering powers, J’onn could also be seen as the Justice League’s answer to the Vision [from Marvel Comic’s Avengers titles; in fact, it could be argued that J’onn has been redesigned to resemble the Android Avenger].)

As for his function in the team’s dynamic outside of battle, it is interesting to note that, as a less-defined character, it often falls to J’onn J’onzz to pick up many secondary tasks that the others—for one reason or another—can’t fulfill.  For example, viewers have seen the Martian take on the role of doctor ("Fury," "A Knight of Shadows," "Hearts and Minds") and counselor ("Injustice For All," "Twilight," "Only a Dream," "Starcrossed," "Fearful Symmetry," "The Cat and the Canary"); the latter function inviting comparison to the telepathic Deanna Troi from Star Trek:  The Next Generation.  It should be noted, however, that these added duties do fall within the range of his experience:  as a member of a telepathic race, J’onn has had to deal with the psychology and the emotions of others; as a freedom fighter, J’onn must have gained significant experience as a medic and battlefield surgeon.

As one would expect, considering his background, J’onn’s character is firmly rooted in melancholy, as the loss of his family, people, and culture define his character as they have defined his past incarnations.  This loss permeates J’onn J’onzz, which sometimes leads to introspective moments ("In Blackest Night") and, in one lamentable case, betrayal ("A Knight of Shadows") but, overall, this pain gives J’onn J’onzz direction.  Just as the loss of Krypton drives Superman, the loss of Mars drives J’onn J’onzz, as he fights to ensure that there will always be at least one inhabited planet in this solar system.

As the individual responsible for organizing the Justice League, this incarnation of the Manhunter from Mars follows in the tradition of his antecedents.  Like his predecessors, J’onn J’onzz is the touchstone of the team, the League’s spiritual center.  Without his sage and compassionate presence, the Justice League that we know and love would surely not exist.

 

Images courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment, Cartoon NetworkDC Cartoon Archives, bat313, Warner Bros. Online UK, Toon Zone, Jay's Original Comic Art, The Second-Stringers of Marvel Comics, and The World's Finest.  Jean Grey and the Vision courtesy of Marvel Comics.

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